The Parable of the Bramble
Title: The Parable of the Bramble
Reading for March 21: Judges 8-9
Thus God returned the evil of Abimelech, which he committed against his father in killing his seventy brothers. And God also made all the evil of the men of Shechem return on their heads, and upon them came the curse of Jotham the son of Jerubbaal.
Judges chapter 9 is a warning to anyone who would look to a human king for salvation. In chapter 8 the people attempted to make Gideon king to which Gideon wisely refuses (Judges 8:23). However at the end of the chapter we see Gideon take many wives for himself and through these wives he has 70 sons (the kind of thing a king would do). He also has a son by a concubine whom he names Abimelech (which means "son of a king").
In chapter 9 we find Abimelech campaigning to the men of Shechem, "Would you rather be ruled by seventy men or by one?" Using the money from a house of Baal-worship, Abimelech hires assassins to kill all his brothers... all of his brothers except one, the youngest, named Jotham.
Jotham goes up to the top of Mount Gerazim and cries aloud to the leaders of Shechem telling them the curious parable of the bramble. The trees of the forest (representing Shechem) go to an olive tree, a fig tree, and a vine and ask them to become king. When the olive tree, fig tree, and vine all refuse, the trees go to the bramble making the same request. The bramble replies:
"'If in good faith you are anointing me king over you, then come and take refuge in my shade, but if not, let fire come out of the bramble and devour the cedars of Lebanon.’” (Judges 9:15)
What does this parable mean? The refusal of the olive tree, fig tree, and vine represent good men like Gideon who would refuse kingship because the LORD alone is Israel's king. However, the bramble represents the wicked Abimelech. And the people get what they ask for when they make Abimelech king. A bramble is a dry, thorny bush that can provide nothing but destruction. That's precisely what Abimelech does for Shechem.
"Come, get under my shade," the bramble calls. "I will take care of you."
Sound familiar? The parable of the bramble is a warning to us all. When God's people seek safety and security from any human king or government we are only asking for trouble. God alone is our king.
Father, we are thankful for human governments which exist by your sovereign will to do us good. But help us see that human governments are a poor substitute for the security and salvation that only you can give.